8 June 2016
South Africa's Home Affairs department is set to embark on a new campaign to educate its officials on the rights of Lesbian‚ Gay‚ Bisexual‚ Transgender and Intersexed South Africans.
In a recent interview Minister Malusi Gigaba said he has also set up a task team made up of officials from his department and representatives of the LGBTI community to look at legislative provisions that need to be reviewed or clarified.
He said "sensitivity campaigns" would be held across the country to ensure officials were sensitive to the rights of LGBTI community.
The minister announced these new measures after meeting with representatives of South Africa's LGBTI community during which a slew of challenges faced by the LGBTI community that requirie urgent attention were raised.
He said of all the challenges raised in the meeting‚ the most shocking was an incident in which a same-sex couple was told to prove that they were gay when they approached one of the department’s offices to get married.
Gigaba said the fingered officials would face disciplinary processes as there was no law that required anyone to prove their sexual orientation for their marriage to be registered.
“How do you prove that you are gay? This is a blatant‚ inhumane and malicious breach of our laws and constitution‚” he said.
Gigaba said his department was attending to 37 cases related to intersexed persons‚ saying 27 of these had been finalised and 10 were awaiting opinion from medical practitioners.
Other issues that emerged in the meeting were the two-year waiting period for the issuing of identity documents to transgender persons‚ child adoption for same-sex couples‚ insensitivity of officials in dealing with foreign nationals seeking asylum based on their sexual orientation as well clarification of some of the stipulations of the Civil Union Act.
Gigaba said there were also some policy issues that needed to be explained‚ including the position of marriage officials and choices at their disposal with regards to officiating over a civil union.
He said the department had 311 marriage officers but they could not be forced to solemnise civil unions.
“In terms of Section 6 of the Civil Union Act‚ a marriage officer may in writing inform the minister that he or she objects on the grounds of conscience‚ religion and belief to solemnising a civil union between persons of the same sex‚ whereupon that marriage officer shall not be compelled to solemnise such civil union‚” he said.
Gigaba said it was also agreed during the meeting that nodal points through which the department and the community could resolve issues should be created.
The nodal points‚ he said‚ would also resolve issues related to change of gender and how these impact on registration of marriages.